Portal:Linguistics

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For a topical guide of this subject, see Outline of linguistics

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Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. It entails a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise analysis of all aspects of language, particularly its nature and structure. As linguistics is concerned with both the cognitive and social aspects of language, it is considered a scientific field as well as an academic discipline; it has been classified as a social science, natural science, cognitive science, or part of the humanities.

Traditional areas of linguistic analysis correspond to phenomena found in human linguistic systems, such as syntax (rules governing the structure of sentences); semantics (meaning); morphology (structure of words); phonetics (speech sounds and equivalent gestures in sign languages); phonology (the abstract sound system of a particular language); and pragmatics (how social context contributes to meaning). Subdisciplines such as biolinguistics (the study of the biological variables and evolution of language) and psycholinguistics (the study of psychological factors in human language) bridge many of these divisions.

Linguistics encompasses many branches and subfields that span both theoretical and practical applications. Theoretical linguistics (including traditional descriptive linguistics) is concerned with understanding the fundamental nature of language and developing a general theoretical framework for describing it. Applied linguistics seeks to utilise the scientific findings of the study of language for practical purposes, such as developing methods of improving language education and literacy.

Linguistic phenomena may be studied through a variety of perspectives: synchronically (describing a language at a specific point of time) or diachronically (through historical development); in monolinguals or multilinguals; children or adults; as they are learned or already acquired; as abstract objects or cognitive structures; through texts or oral elicitation; and through mechanical data collection versus fieldwork. (Full article...)

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Map of the Irish-speaking areas of Ireland.
Irish phonology has been studied as a discipline since the late 19th century, with numerous researchers publishing descriptive accounts of dialects from all regions where the language is spoken. More recently, Irish phonology has been the focus of theoretical linguists, who have produced a number of books, articles, and doctoral theses on the topic.

One of the most important aspects of Irish phonology is that almost all consonants come in pairs, with one having a "broad" pronunciation and the other a "slender" one. Broad consonants are velarized, that is, the back of the tongue is pulled back and slightly up in the direction of the soft palate while the consonant is being articulated. Slender consonants are palatalized, which means the tongue is pushed up toward the hard palate during the articulation. The contrast between broad and slender consonants is crucial in Irish, because the meaning of a word can change if a broad consonant is substituted for a slender consonant or vice versa. For example, the only difference in pronunciation between the words ('cow') and beo ('alive') is that is pronounced with a broad b sound, while beo is pronounced with a slender b sound. The contrast between broad and slender consonants plays a critical role not only in distinguishing the individual consonants themselves, but also in the pronunciation of the surrounding vowels, in the determination of which consonants can stand next to which other consonants, and in the behavior of words that begin with a vowel. This broad/slender distinction is similar to the hard/soft one of several Slavic languages, like Russian.

The Irish language shares a number of phonological characteristics with its nearest linguistic relatives, Scottish Gaelic and Manx, as well as with Hiberno-English, the language with which it is most closely in contact.

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